Business Travel in Latin America – What to Consider for Safety and Security

This is a complicated matter that involves understanding general security awareness measures as well as understanding how and why people are targeted. Many Latin American countries while beautiful can be dangerous places. Violent street crime is an increasing problem as are the activities of more organized Transnational Crime Organizations (TCO’s). The proper approach to your security as you travel to, or work in, Latin American countries has to do primarily with your personal circumstances and the length of your stay.

Short-term, infrequent visitors to Latin America from other parts of the world need to focus on how not to become an attractive target of opportunity. Remember that perception is reality to the street criminal looking for an easy mark. Foreigners seeming to be confused or tentative, and appearing to have some wealth, are their targets. Wealth being a relative term, just wearing a nice suit or fancy watch could be all that is necessary to establish your value to them. Then they will observe your level of awareness. Those two factors are going to decide their actions towards you. Whether at the airport, hotel, or on the street, if you move about with a very low key, alert and prepared demeanor, wearing simple attire and limited or no jewelry then you will probably not be selected for assault. Also, do some homework and make some plans for where you are going, who will meet you, and how you will recognize them. This will help you avoid that `lost or confused’ appearance. Arranging for a security driver is a great way of assuring this. Not a limousine but a simple sedan or van driven by someone who knows the area and can keep you out of dangerous locations. When walking, remain alert for approaches towards you and respond assertively. This will communicate that you are not going to be an easy target. Potential assailants will choose someone who appears to have valuables or lots of cash and who also looks easier to catch off guard.

More extended stays bring another element into play. This affords the chance to study you over a longer period of time to assess your possible value as a kidnap or extortion target. Conducting yourself in a low key manner is still important but now you have to be observant for repeats of people or vehicles that seem to keep popping up around you during your day. This is probably criminal surveillance. They often study several possible kidnap or extortion targets and pick the one that offers the most value at the least risk. It will take some discipline and training for you to counter this by avoiding patterns of time, or travel route. This will make you harder to study. This alone could remove you from their list of possible targets. A security driver is again a great option or you could learn surveillance recognition techniques yourself. It is not that hard. Busy, distracted business executives are however encouraged to take advantage of a security driver as practicing designed randomness and surveillance detection takes mental concentration. This level of attention to detail and observation is difficult to practice with the daily focus required on normal work related issues.

Relocation is yet another level of exposure because here you are going to have the challenge of choosing a place to live, maybe with family, and learning how to function in what may be a very different social culture. Surveillance operatives (either base criminal or more sophisticated and organized) will now have a chance to find out much more about your position within your company, your financial means, and what security measures you have taken. They will study your residence, commuting routes and family habits as well as your work related movements. This is when kidnapping is a greater concern if you allow it to be. With relocation, practiced randomness, security driver assistance, and surveillance detection assistance is even more important. You might even consider a 24 hour emergency response service and depending on your position, close protection agents might also be prudent.

This brief discussion is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to avoiding becoming a part of the increasingly disturbing crime statistics of Latin American countries. For more detailed information check out some of the online training courses available at [] or visit our website to review service capabilities in LATAM at